being connected – collaboration, management perspective

By 22. April 2009 No Comments

Today poeple talk about collaboration and go for value creation through joint efforts. In the fragmented companies and business-unit-silo-thinking this is not easy to do and a big impuls from leadership and corporate culture is necessary. „Organisational agility is critical for successful businesses in the current economic climate, with 81 percent of business leaders viewing knowledge management and collaboration as the main drivers for increased productivity, enhanced performance and rapid innovation, according to a new report.

My perspective on this topic: A lot of organisations lead by financial key-indicators and try to set up common values. The finance language is too much buzz-words for most of the operating people and they feel threatened but not embedded. The so called corporate culture values are so vage, that they could be told by anyone. The big question is: who is that company and what does it stand for. More important than ever is the branding towards the employees and this is connected with product, values, believes and loyalty. 

What is very interesting in this context is: it is not new at all. Here some insights from the pionieer time.

We had crisis before and we had thinkers before. One of the management pioneers is  Mary Parker Follett, who was talking about collaboration already as early as 1918, just after World War I and the early industrialisation, shortly after Frederick Taylor has started his measurements in the American plants. A very interesting study about the female view in management is  originally presented as an habilitation script of Birgit Althans in 2005, Freie Universität Berlin, „Das maskierte Begehren: Frauen zwischen Sozialarbeit und Management“ (document is online with 253 pages in German language)

The individual is created by the social process and is daily nourished by that process. There is no such things as a self-made man. What we possess as individuals is what is stored up from society, is the subsoil of social life…. Individuality is the capacity for union. The measure of individuality is the depth and breadth of true relation. I am an individual not as far as I am apart from, but as far as I am a part of other men. Evil is non-relation. (Follett 1918: 62)

Organizations, like communities, could be approached as local social systems involving networks of groups. In this way Mary Parker Follett was able to advocate the fostering of a ’self-governing principle‘ that would facilitate ‚the growth of individuals and of the groups to which they belonged‘. By directly interacting with one another to achieve their common goals, the members of a group ‚fulfilled themselves through the process of the group’s development‘.

Follett’s is a philosophy of engagement and encounter. Through thinking about our experiences, questioning their meaning and truth and looking to the people we are, it is possible to learn. But there can be dangers in this process if approached narrowly.
The people who ‘learn by experience’ often make great messes of their lives, that is, if they apply what they have learned from a past incident to the present, deciding from certain appearances that the circumstances are the same, forgetting that no two situations can ever be the same… All that I am, all that life has made me, every past experience that I have had – woven into the tissue of my life – I must give to the new experience. That past experience has indeed not been useless, but its use is not in guiding present conduct by past situations. We must put everything we can into each fresh experience, but we shall not get the same things out which we put in if it is a fruitful experience, if it is part of our progressing life… We integrate our experience, and then the richer human being that we are goes into the new experience; again we give ourself and always by giving rise above the old self.  (Follett 1924: 136-137)

Find a link to Linked to Robert Putman. He put up the facts in the 80ies “ The original ‘Bowling Alone’ article generated a great deal of interest. It is easy to see why, when Robert Putnam talks about the significance of social connectedness and just how pervasive are its effects. Today we find the book „Community“, community work by Peter Block.
Peter is part of a group of volunteers in Cincinnati called A Small Group , which is committed to the creation of a restorative and reconciled community. Its strategy is to discover ways to engage the disengaged through working with existing associations and through direct invitation. Its work focuses on direct efforts to bring into conversation those groups of people who are not in relationship with each other. His book: Community: The Structure of Belonging (Hardcover), was published only in 2008.

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